China coal use has risen significantly, despite pledges by Beijing to cut back on the carbon intense fuel.  ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images.

China coal mining ramped up to highest levels in years

China coal miners and thermal power plants are working hard to keep up with demand as a shortage of natural gas has left millions of homes struggling to keep warm this winter, according to a report by Reuters.

The heating crisis is undermining the government’s plan to reduce the country’s dependency on coal and shift to cleaner burning energy.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics’ records shows the production of thermal electricity, generated almost entirely by coal rose to 441.7 billion kilowatt-hours, the highest since February 2015.

“This year, Beijing’s pullback on coal-to-gas conversion has benefited coal consumption,” Cheng Gong, analyst at China National Coal Association told Reuters.

In December 2017, the world’s top coal miners produced their highest tonnage since December 2015 and coal futures have skyrocketed over 70 per cent in 2017..

Above normal demand for electricity in December meant thermal power output rose 17 per cent from November and 3.6 per cent from December 2016.

According to the Reuters report, in early December the program that converted a number of households to natural gas from coal across northern China was scaled back after provinces nearly ran out of gas.

As well, Beijing eased restrictions on coal-power projects.  The Chinese government had targeted its coal-fired power to be at 55 per cent of installed capacity by 2020.  But, in December, thermal power made up 77.5 per cent of total output, rising from 72 per cent in November.